Worry, Stress & Anxiety, Adjacency Skills & Measuring your life

The High Five - Edition #21

Hello everyone,

Welcome to Season #2 of ‘The High Five’. Thank you for subscribing to this newsletter of curated pieces that make for (hopefully) an interesting read during weekends.

In this 21st edition, the articles I am sharing are all old pieces. It is just that I got to discover/read them in the December holidays, and I lined them up for sharing on ‘The High Five’ this season. Here’s what we have got:

  1. What’s the difference between worry, stress, and anxiety?

  2. How can we reimagine building skills, through adjacency?

  3. How can we measure happiness in our lives, using a slightly different lens?


Well-being: Difference between Worry, Stress & Anxiety

This article from Feb-2020 provides a clear picture of worry, stress, and anxiety and how they could be dealt with. Many of us might be having a sweeping interpretation of these 3 drivers of unhappiness and it is good to understand the distinct characteristics of each so that we develop that clarity to go for the right diagnosis and cure. Here is what I understood from this:

  1. Worry, which is repetitive, is the cognitive component of anxiety. It happens only in your mind, not in your body. On the flip-side, worry is also likely to cause us to problem-solve or take action, both of which are positive things. The thing we need to remember is to avoid getting stuck up about a problem.

  2. Stress is a physiological response connected to an external event. It is a reaction to environmental changes or forces that exceed our resources.

  3. Anxiety is the culmination of stress and worry. It has both - a cognitive element (worry) and physiological response (stress).

Worry is helpful only if it leads to change, not if it turns into obsessive thoughts. And anxiety happens in your mind and your body, so trying to think your way out of it will not help. From this article, I prepared a small illustration showing how we can deal with worry, stress and anxiety.


Career: Building skills through adjacency

This article from Ness Labs shares some perspectives on the importance of building skills adjacent to the existing skills and some ways to go about it. Building adjacent skills has many advantages and the primary one being the comfort of using some of the knowledge from your existing skills to acquire adjacent skills, instead of starting from scratch.

The other advantages it brings is that it helps us develop empathy for our teammates and peers. Having adjacent skills also helps us become better communicators, as we start using the appropriate vocabulary. And ultimately, having diverse (adjacent) skills will help us see overlaps and connections between various domains and disciplines, thereby enabling us to bring unique and non-evident solutions to the table. Over a period, it helps us craft a unique role for ourselves, paving way for interesting opportunities.

The method of identifying and approaching adjacent skills is:

  1. Brainstorm on as many potential new skills relevant to your current role as possible. Generate multiple ideas.

  2. Consider both - hard skills and also soft skills.

  3. Cluster the related ideas into themes/domains and then categorize them into 3 circles - curiosity, ease of learning & utility to your growth (horizontal or vertical).

Once you categorize, identify the ones that play at the intersection of the 3 circles. Those are the skills you could target to learn because they satisfy your intellectual curiosity and also have a reasonable level of ease-difficulty while learning. As career environments evolve into more complex and inter-disciplinary models, building adjacent skills is a great way to widen your career perspective as multi-faceted profiles are the need of the hour today.


Reframing the thinking: What if you measure your happiness in a different way?

This Jan-2019 article from the founder of The Unmistakable Creative is one of those pieces that made way into my notebook. It was a good reminder, prompting almost a reset button to how I look at accomplishments. The article talks about what we need to measure in life and how we do that - for a profound impact on joy and fulfilment.

While not decrying ambition, the author contends that the pursuit of “more” today, is a rigged game because we're always playing on a relative scale. Today, we have quantified many dimensions of our lives with various metrics such as - money, years to next promotion, likes, subscribers, views, etc. And caught in the churn to stay ahead, we tend to value reach over depth, eyeballs over hearts, and clicks over connections. Against this backdrop, using the wrong metrics to measure our lives can be detrimental to our well being. Because wrong or unreasonable measurements could lead to unfair comparisons, lack of empathy and unhealthy standards for success. Instead of measuring with someone else's yardstick (which results in external validations), we need to choose our own metrics for fulfilment.

“You look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18 or 20, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge” - Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Here is a visual summary of how we can reframe the way we measure our lives:


A quote that resonated with me this week: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together.” - Ratan Tata.


A question to ponder about: If you live in a world where there is nobody to tell you what you can/should and what you cannot/shouldn't do, what will your life goals be like?


If you liked the insights you read, do share your thoughts in the comments. And do forward this to a friend who might like it too.

Leave a comment

I recently came across this YouTube handle which streams relaxing piano music 24x7. If you are one of those who’d like some calming music in the background while focusing on work, you could give it a try. I found it very good.

Until next time. Have a wonderful weekend.